The Way The World Works: Enneagram Fives


Fives suffer from avarice or greed. They live out of a vision of the world colored by scarcity, so they must defend the precious few things they possess. Greed is often associated with a host of external identifiers—a grumpy disposition bent on a scrooge-like grasping for money, possessions, or power. However, greed for the five has more to do with an inner disposition bent on retaining one’s energy. The five’s passion is a kind of retentiveness, a tight-handed, unconscious effort to hold onto what they already have.

Although you would never know this about them based on their personal belongings, fives long to have, own, and possess. They often pride themselves on their need for few physical possessions. Just give me my coffee maker and books, says the five. I need little more than that. Fives don’t look greedy in the conventional sense because they have few material needs. Indeed, they minimize their needs so they can appear competent to themselves and others. Competence is the state of having all of the information, skills, and abilities necessary to respond to life so as not to need anything from anyone else. Instead, fives cultivate a rich inner life, pursuing interesting ideas, hobbies, little-known facts or secret wisdom.

Unfortunately, The same attitude of heart that allows fives to be extraordinarily objective and detached also makes them cold and disconnected from their more tender feelings of affection. They love their children, partners, family members, and friends, but their awareness of their own affections can be buried in the confines of a contracted heart. In other words, fives’ avarice is so acute and their denial of needs so strong that they end up suffering from the delusion that they do not need human connection. In moments of reflection they may think that the most honest answer to pondering the possibility of losing personal relationships would be—I could go on without them. That might actually allow me to live my life as I please. Barring rare psychological disorders, this thought is a delusion, but a powerful one nonetheless. In reality, a five’s emotional connections are as powerful as anyone’s, however those feelings have been abandoned and left in their heart—the emotional center they left a long time ago when they chose to live solely from their head.

Jesus Reveals an Abundant World

Perhaps Jesus’ most direct affirmation of the abundance of the cosmos is remembered in the feeding of the multitudes.

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.”Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. (Matt 14:13-21)

The passage opens with the phrase, “When Jesus heard this,” referring to the news that Jesus’ cousin and peer in ministry, John the Baptist, was beheaded by King Herod. No one can be blamed for wanting to hole up and reevaluate their life when a loved one dies because of words and deeds performed in a life parallel to their own. This event is one of the scarier case studies in a sea of examples easily placed in what one might call the “See, the world isn’t remotely safe!” category. I’m not arguing that the world always seems like a safe, cheery place. On the contrary very real, difficult and painful things will undoubtedly happen to you if they haven’t yet. It’s guaranteed. I am, however, pointing to the extended argument found in Scriptures that in the final analysis, there is enough.

Initially, Jesus wants to withdraw, find some solitude and rest, but the crowds want him to engage. Fives regularly feel the weight of the many demands placed upon them, so they look for ways to disengage. Jesus does exactly the opposite. He abandons the limited way of being in the world so typical of those ensnared by the fear of scarcity. That voice, a voice characteristic of the five, is taken up by the disciples. There isn’t enough food. There isn’t enough time. There just isn’t enough… We are tired. Look, we are competent planners who have only a little bit of food for us. We are responsible for ourselves. The crowd should be responsible and take care of their own needs. While the disciples’ argument undoubtedly made sense (as any five’s argument would), Jesus would not be cajoled into living from a place of scarcity. Instead, he does the last thing a five would want to do, but the very thing they desire to receive. Jesus takes care of the people. [1]

Jesus took a small meal—an amount of food deemed “not enough” by fives the world over—and blessed it. When the abundant God blesses, God infuses goodness and fullness into the stuff we suspect is a mere empty shell. When God blesses the things we fear might not enough to satisfy, nourish and take care of us, they are made abundant. When God blesses the world, it’s filled to the brim and made more than what it appears to be when viewed through scarcity-colored glasses. When God blesses, all things are made new and abundant.

[1]Clarence Thomas, Parables and the Enneagram (Portland: Metamorphous Press, 1996).